Why limerence hurts

No one plans to experience limerence. Yet, it is very often an overwhelming experience. Limerence has always existed, but it was firstly defined in the 1970s by Dorothy Tennov. Limerence is not about love, but it’s also not about having a crush on someone. As Dorothy describes it in the book “Love and Limerence: The Experience Of Being In Love”, limerence is defined as a state of mind that results from a romantic attraction towards another person, called the Limerent Object. Usually, the limerent has obsessive thoughts and fantasies about their LO (Limerent Object) and have a strong desire to have the feelings reciprocated.

But how does it feel more exactly?

Imagine that you are at an event and you see someone. You then make eye contact and you instantly feel a very intense connection with them. Somehow, you start to talk and you realize that there is something that attracts you to them. Well, so far it seems very similar to the “symptoms” that any person that would fall in love has.

But limerence is not love; limerence is a very intense experience that can take control of your mind and life. Therefore, it can become painful as well. You not only start to fantasize about that person, but you start to feel anxious as well. Unfortunately, for many limerence is one-sided, you might feel limerent feelings towards your LO, but they then don’t reciprocate the same feelings. Not only can’t you stop thinking about them, but you also know that they are not interested. Yet, you are still there, thinking about them and being triggered by anything that reminds you of them.

In this moment your world might feel so unsettled. How do you manage such a situation? You know that you should be hiding your interest from your LO, yet you still idealize them and spend a lot of your time interpreting everything that they say or do, in the hope that you’ll find some sign of reciprocity. You read their messages repeatedly, telling yourself that maybe their words mean something or that you’ve missed something “between the lines”. Limerence is like an obsession, your LO becomes your passion and hobby.

Some things can make you more prone to experience limerence, such as having problems in your current relationship (e.g. boredom), suffering from depression or negative life events, but mostly it’s because you have childhood attachment wounds. Those that have an anxious attachment style are more likely to experience limerence because, if you didn’t get the love or attention from your parents or caregivers during childhood, you will be looking for it in your LO. You will be looking for that connection that will make you feel safe and beloved and thus more likely to experience limerence and a deeper attachment for your LO. For example, you might be craving affection and connection, so in the relationship with your LO, you’ll be constantly looking for signs of affection from their side. The risk is that when they will not fulfill your needs, it will dramatically affect you.

When you experience limerence there are also changes with the hormonal level in the brain, you are flooded with dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, where you feel emotionally out of control, to the point that it disrupts your daily life; you find it hard to concentrate to your daily responsibility or relationships. Life feels like an emotional rollercoaster. Usually, these hormones level go back to normal after around 6-12 months. However, during limerence, you can get “trapped” at this stage.

Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that the limerence experience doesn’t last for a lifetime, it will pass eventually. Limerence usually lasts between 3 and 36 months, after this generally you’ll be able to let it go and move on. After a period of time, somewhere between the 3 to 36 months, , you will accept that what is happening is just a fantasy and, hopefully, also get professional help. Otherwise, you’ll most likely move on to find a new LO with whom you’ll experience the same pattern.

In the end, loving someone so much, even if it’s a limerent kind of “love”, can indeed affect someone’s emotional wellbeing. Especially if it’s not reciprocated, the experience of limerence can be very painful for anyone.  Imagine that your LO doesn’t share the feelings towards you, your family and friends are constantly telling you to move on, but you simply can’t listen. You slowly might start to feel alone as it seems that no one else truly understands what you are going through. Limerence is indeed like addition and it is highly connected with the concept of co-dependency. When you are co-dependent, your self-esteem depends on how the other person perceives you; so now imagine that you are co-dependent on a LO that doesn’t reciprocate your feelings. Instead of accepting the situation as it is, you will try even more to do things to please your partner and make them love you, to avoid a possible rejection and, therefore, pain. What is even more interesting is that, as much as you become preoccupied with the whole situation and the status of your relationship with your LO, they might still not even be involved with you in any way! Soon you’ll realize that it might be all in your mind, this is a point at which seeking external help may benefit.

Unfortunately, this obsessive need to have your feelings reciprocated will lead to despair and frustration. On the other side, you can recover from it, by becoming more self-aware and understanding how to regulate your emotions better. There are a few things that you can do to recover from limerence. We talk a bit about them in our article here. No matter how you feel, remember that there is no reason for you to be ashamed of experiencing limerence, you are not alone in this and there are professionals who can help you overcome it. For today’s article I would like to conclude with the following quote, which hopefully will inspire you: “Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful part of us.” – David Richo

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